One minute we were heading out on a game drive and the next the adrenaline was pumping as we raced to a sighting. We heard there were wild dogs in the area and that if we were lucky we might be able to see them. Our energetic guide had a reputation for being able to stay close to a wild dog pack so we had high hopes we might see the elusive animals. A wild dog viewing is a rare reward on a game viewing trip. Everyone in our game viewing vehicle was excited at the prospect of seeing them.
On our most recent game viewing trip to South Africa we discovered the luxury of direct flights to and from the airport in Johannesburg and the game reserves in and near the famous Kruger National Park. In previous safari trips we had either flown to a regional airport and driven a couple of hours to our lodges or driven six to eight hours directly from the city to the lodges. In either case it was necessary to drive an hour on very bumpy unpaved roads within the reserves without cell phone signal or the ability to get out of our vehicles because of the wild animals in the area.
This lodge, named for two lions from the Swahili word Simba for lion and Mbili for two, offered extraordinary Big Five game viewing during our stay. The lodge, situated on the banks of the Manyeleti River facing the Manyeleti Plains, was named for a Bremen, Germany adventurer of legend who was purportedly attacked by two lions on his first night in the bush.
Kirkman’s Kamp was named for Lawrence Henry “Harry” Kirkman, a hunter turned conservationist, who established the property as a family cattle farm in the early 1900s. It was one of only two properties we have visited with access to the Sabi and Sand rivers of the well known Sabi Sand Reserve where it is located. Perhaps because of its proximity to two rivers this well run property also offered excellent birding.
After a warm greeting from Tom Rutherford, the lodge manager, we walked from the parking area down a few steps and across a paved pathway through a garden to the doorless entrance of the main building of Singita Ebony Lodge. The first thing I noticed as we walked past the comfortable and worn looking colorful furniture in the main area was the memorable view of the Sand River across the room and the ebony tree for which the property was named that pierced through the wood deck. From where we stood we could see the ochre colored river snake by on its journey east and later south across the Sabi Sand Reserve.
Named for two leadwood trees that frame the arrival area of the property, the &Beyond Leadwood Lodge was a quiet Big Five safari haven when we arrived. We were delighted to be the sole guests at the four room lodge for the first night. Kelli, the lodge manager, and Martha, our butler, greeted us warmly as we disembarked from our vehicle. Martha offered us lemongrass scented refresher towels and sparkling iced lemonade. After sharing information about the property and providing us with the obligatory indemnity form Kelli walked us to our river facing rooms with private plunge pools just steps away from the main building.